Lovely day for a walk

Our Water Eaton mooring runs parallel with the River Ouzel so with spring in the air we joined the masses out for a walk.

The canal was busy as well with lots of boats going post. Lovely to see so many shedding the layers but I didn’ think it was quite mild enough for her shirts.

Breaking the code

ho deny W  fljuns Unzil ube. Juknyeds. Mojo kdnu Neil may….. Ok that’s all gobbledygook, but we did have a fascinating day visiting Bletchley Park, the WWII home of British code breaking.  It’s hard to know how to describe the day because we both came home feeling a bit overwhelmed by the awesome effort that went into breaking the German codes generated by the Enigma machines. I’m not going to make any attempt to describe how it all works.

The film, The Imitation Game, told the Holywood version of how Alan Turin was recruited, persevered and built a machine called Christpher that was able to decipher messages sent by the German military. Bletchley Park tells that same story with a lot more accuracy (or so they tell us).

Turin was indeed a genius, but he was very much part of a team effort. There were over 9000 people working at the Bletchley site during the war. Non of them lived on site, so many had to be bused in from the surrounding towns and villages, yet the work remained a secret. Even those on site didn’t know what was happening in other buildings. The mindset was that as it was part of the war effort, you didn’t ask questions. I can’t imagine that happening today. Churchill called the people at Bletchley “the golden geese that never cackled”. The top brass working in the magnificent Mansion were known as Captain Ridleys Shooting Party. ( Weatherspoons renamed one of their pubs down the road with the same name but that’s all they have in common)

We took the guided tour around the site before setting off to look at the exhibits in detail. But even so we didn’t feel that we’d absorbed everything the site had to offer. It’s not a cheap day out at £17.50 each but our tickets allowed for unlimited returns for a whole 12 months. So we made a second visit and restricted ourselves to just B Block. This houses a replica of the Bombe, named after the early polish machine, the Bomba which was used to decipher the enigma codes. They were filming an in house promotional film the day we visited but we weren’t asked to take a starring role however we were able to chat to several of the team involved in recreating the machinery used. It did have an air of ‘boys and their toys’ about it but they also brought the whole thing alive sharing their enthusiasm with us.

All in all we can wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Bletchley Park and if you are travelling along the Grand Union it’s about a 30 minute walk from Fenny Stratford or Water Eaton. We would also recommend taking one of the guided tours which highlight more of the social history of the site. It’s both educational and humbling looking back at the sacrifices and commitment given by so many in order to preserve our freedom.

We’re planning to return again to see Colossus in the National Museum of Computing, housed next door to Bletchley Park.

What a difference a day makes

What a difference a day makes, yesterday nothing would have enticed me to leave the comfort of my duvet, yet today we woke to sunshine and still waters. Or at least the waters would have been still if there hadn’t been so many boats on the move. I think we were all so glad to be outside and on the move again, the day had a real happy feel to it.

We had been moored next to Fran and Mick on their lovely green wide beam. I think we were all suffering from a little bit of boat envy as we proudly showed off our homes. We’ll be playing leap frog over the next few miles as we both head north.

Winter blues

I’m feeling very British, needing to talk about the weather. It’s dire, bleak and wintery, with sleet and biting winds. The temptation is to snuggle down under the duvet and go into hibernation. I’m certainly not cruising anywhere whilst it’s like this.

Thankgoodness I had the foresight to fill the larder with enough food to see us through at least a week without any repetition or two or three weeks of pasta and tomato sauce.

We don’t even get any TV reception here so I’m making the most of this enforced idleness by catching up on some knitting projects.

A scarf that has been on the needles for too long and needs to get finished. And to add a splash of colour, last week I finished a cardigan for my new nephew, Solomon


Keeping warm.

January is one of those months that doesn’t inspire much cruising for pleasure. It’s either damp grey and miserable, and it’s nicer to be tucked up inside, or its crisp clear and frosty, which is beautiful and calls for us the make the most of our surroundings. However cruising on those days is still the domain of the hardy cause it doesn’t take long for the chill to reach our bones. Sadly we haven’t had too many perfect crispy days this year, but we’ve realised that going for walks is warmer than standing at the tiller. So as we’ve found ourselves a nice mooring just above the three locks at Soulbury we’ll make the most of it and stay our full 14 days.

We do have the pleasure of a kingfisher catching his breakfast opposite the boat, however my photography skills aren’t up to capturing the moment. You’ll have to make do with Eric and his boaters breakfast.

Looking back over 2017 part 3

We continued to enjoy our friends company as we got to know the area around the south Midlands. Spending longer at each mooring so we could explore more leisurely. Claire and Matthew joined us at Nether Heyford
We took Jo cruising past Dunchurch pools, a huge new marina being built on the north Oxford especially for her boat the Blue Pearl when it’s complete.

We continued picking blackberries in the most hair raising manner

As the leaves began to turn golden. We cruised up the north Oxford spending a few nights at Barby marina with the Alpacas

A fortnight in Rugby, and onto to the Ashby canal. Where we experimented with some alternative transport. I rather liked this model T Ford

But Eric preferrd the train.

Though having spent nearly a year on Firecrest we are both in agreement that narrowboating wins everytime. 

Having looked at the CRT  planned winter maintenance program we decided to head back into the GU for the winter months. We were very impressed with how accessble Milton Keynes was for pedestrians providing us with a rural parkland and tarmac paths.

Before we settled in Leighton Buzzard as winter arrived with a vengeance 

As I hope you can see from my looking back over 2017 reminiscence , it’s the friendships that have dominated our year. We’ve been touched and honoured that friends and family have travelled to see us. Not everyone has been mentioned by name or photo but that doesn’t mean any less significance to us.  We’ve been welcomed by boaters and locals alike, we’ve made both short term and long lasting friends amongst the people we have met along the way in various churches pubs and yarn gatherings. It’s funny how we’ve leant out of the side hatch to see where we are, and before we realised it half an hour later we’d swapped life stories and boating advice with the passers by. Boaters must have an inherent nosy gene.

It’s not all been a bed of roses, there have been quite a few frustrations, mainly with the way the builder chose to do things the way he’d always done it, instead of incorporating 21century knowledge. But we’ll learn to live with it. And I shall resign myself to Firecrest being tweeked to make things run more smoothly. I’m hoping there’ll be a page of statistics for the year. But that’s Eric’s domain, I don’t do spreadsheets.

Looking back over 2017 part 2

Sharing June with friends was wonderful, John and Tina, Ruby and Bryony also came to see us as we relished being able to moor under the shade of trees whilst the rest of England basked in a heatwave.

We have decided that June 1st will be the date we celebrate Firecrest’s birthday.

Having said goodbye to our friends, our cruising plans would take us on a voyage of discovery down the River Severn to Worcester and the mighty Catherdral.

This is where we realised that churches were a good starting place to find out about the history of the area, and even the country as a whole. We were almost embarrassed by how ignorant we are about our heritage but now we’ve got the time and energy to do something able it.

From Worcester down the river to Tewksbury, another fascinating town where battles were fort and friendships formed. 

We were now on the River Avon heading towards Stratford, which of course meant a visit to the national theatre.

And a return to the canals, through some of the prettiest Warwickshire countryside and the long flight of locks at Hatton. 

Here we’d meet up with more friends and family

And as most of the boaters we were chatting to seemed to be planning summer with grandchildren, not having any of our own, we sort to borrow a galley slave. Amy joined us for a week. We put her to work harvesting the bountiful blackberries, elderberries, plums and apples that were now dripping from the hedgerows.

We did have a lot of laughs as Eric skilfully manoeuvred Firecrest into position so we could harvest the best and most juicy to be made into puddings and jam.

Braunston has long since been a meeting place for boaters and here we had the very great pleasure of seeing Ian and Joy take ownership of their boat Tenacity

And enjoying a mini convention of 3 electric boats all moored together. Despite what boat builders might think we are just like all other boaters, any excuse to get together with a glass in hand.

The summer had been nothing like what we had anticipated. We had cruised about 250 miles and done about 200 locks. We’d made a lot of boating friends and had been honoured by many visitors from back home. This was a life we were going to enjoy.

Looking back over 2017 part 1

I like to think of what’s to come rather than what’s been and gone, but we can’t help but look back at an amazing year. This time last year we celebrated New Year full of anticipation that Firecrest was ready for us to begin our new adventure. Leaving Suffolk on 13th January 2017 in the snow was hard, but after several years of planning, nothing was going to stop us now.

Frustratingly we were thrown a last minute curved ball, being told we needed electrical certification before Peter from Braidbar would sign off the boat ready for licensing.   Eric had planned to complete the work leisurely whilst we were cruising, but instead we spent the next few months moored on the Macclesfield canal, working in inaccessible places, tweeking wires and ticking boxes.

But it wasn’t a wasted time. Despite all the difficulties of working in such cramped conditions, we made the most of our ‘confinement’ by getting to know an extremely beautiful part of the country. 

And making some amazing friends, I became one of the family at Wiseheart studios in Whaley Bridge.

Infact those frustrating few months actually helped us really grasp how special our new life was going to be. There’d be many inconvenient annoying problems to face whist living on a narrowboat but despite all the anxieties ahead of us, we would be surrounded by people who took us into their hearts, made us friends, nurtured and supported us. And as experiences overtook our naivety, we hoped we would start being able to give back to the community we were now calling home.

Eventually on 1st June we waved farewell to Braidbar, to James and Donna who had worked so hard to help Eric fulfil his vision for an electric boat, and Jo and Lawrence who’s boats were in build alongside Firecrest,

We were now well behind schedule to meet up with our friends from Suffolk who had planned to holiday in Wolverley, near Kiddiminster.  This meant instead of taking a leisurely meander along the Macclesfield canal, Trent and Mersy, and onto the Staffs and Worc, about 90 miles, 70 locks and several tunnels we hurried down without stopping to smell the roses. Not something we’ll choose to do again although being able to see Anne and Richard to drink pink prosecco did make up for it, and we were finally able to relax.